Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Favorite Books: All Creatures Great & Small

Way, way, okay, waaaay back when I was but a lad, I liked to read a lot of different types of books. I read middle grade, young adult, history, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, comedy--everything except romance, ugh!

When I was about 13 or so, my mother's cousin started mailing us books every once in a while. She was the original, only I didn't order the books, she just sent whatever she thought I'd be interested in. There was just one problem--she had no idea what I liked to read. I don't think she asked my mom, she certainly didn't ask me. I couldn't really tell her what I liked because these gifts were just sent randomly, and if I asked her for a book it would seem like I expected to receive one.

To be honest, I don't remember any of the books that she sent me. Except the ones by Alf Wight, a/k/a James Herriot. For some strange reason, I found I really liked these books about an English country vet. I think looking back it was because the books took me back to another time and place--Yorkshire in the 1940's and 50's with such vivid descriptions. Each chapter was a little individual story that dealt with universal truths about human and animal nature.

Cast of All Creatures Great and Small
I had become something of an Anglophile by that time. Many of the authors I was reading were English--J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and others. My entertainment was also decidedly Anglo-centric. I had just discovered Monty Python--don't get me started about Monty Python! Genius. My music was also dominated by English bands--Yes, Bowie, and the most English band of all--Jethro Tull. Some of their songs from the mid to late 70's were snapshots of the Yorkshire countryside.

All this combined to fuel my imagination of that green and pleasant land that English poet William Blake wrote about (sorry, English major in me coming out). Then lo and behold, while flipping channels one night (yes, those were the days when you actually had to get up and turn the knob), I chanced upon All Creatures Great and Small on PBS.

Alf Wight a/k/a James Herriot
Well, I was hooked all over again. The beautiful locations, the use of live animals on set (lots of shots of the actors sticking their hands up cows' butts), and the fact that they did all this in suits(!?), appealed to me. I loved seeing beloved characters and animals brought to life. It was awesome. So much so, that even today I love rereading the books, and my whole family likes listening to "vet stories" as the kids call the audio books and the DVDs.

So, thank you Cousin Kathy for giving me a gift that really did keep on giving. If you have children in your life, I heartily support the notion of sending them random gifts of books. You never know. You just might open up a door to a whole world of entertainment!


  1. As an aunt- I am going to start doing this! I love it! One of my aunts always sent me random books (again, ones she thought I would like). I have some ideas now and look forward to sending off some books next week. :)

    Great post and this is a book (and series) that I missed. Thanks for sharing.

    1. These books are great. He was such a great writer, and the stories he tells are universal, with lots of humor. He'll make you laugh and then cry. If you like animals and are enthralled by the quirks of human nature, you'll love these.